Last weekend Dave and I took an quick trip over to Poland. It had been a few months since we’d done any travel and we were itching to see some more of Europe. We decided to head to Poland’s 7th largest city, Szczecin- which is just across the Germany/Poland line. We were able to find a transport on essentially the equivalent of a commuter rail for only 10 Euros each way (Szczecin is only about a 2 hour drive/train ride from Berlin).
We left Berlin on Thursday afternoon for our two night stay. Upon arriving in Szczecin we promptly got lost and took about an hour to find our hotel (another great deal at only 25 Euros/night!). Luckily we found some friendly cabbies who were nice enough to give us directions in a mix of German, Polish and English. After checking in and relaxing for a few minutes we headed out to find some traditional Polish food. I’d done a little restaurant research on TripAdvisor the night before and we easily found Pod Kogutem. We were a little nervous about the food because we were the only customers, but pretty much everywhere in the city was dead- a total 180 from what Berlin is like any night of week.Though the dinner atmosphere was slightly odd the food was fantastic! We started with some traditional Polish perogies followed by steak medallions with Polish dumplings for me and a pork loin for Dave. Of course, there was Polish beer to be had as well. After dinner we decided to head back to rest and get ready for some sightseeing in the morning.
We awoke early the next morning and were pleased to see that rain was holding off. We headed toward the downtown area for coffe and breakfast and then began our walk along the “Golden Route”. The Golden Route takes one down the “main street” in Szczecin- highlighting different monuments and important features along the way. We saw monuments dedicated to “Polish Great Deeds”, sailors, dancing fountains and even the world oldest movie theater (we stopped by to see about tickets but all the films were in Polish..as one would imagine). The highlight of the walk came when we reached the Jana Pawla II square- a huge green square with a large statue commemorating Poland’s own Pope John Paul II. From there it lead into a large park with ample walkways, an outdoor concert venue, a rose garden and a beer garden. After wandering through the park for a bit we made our way back to the beer garden for some Kielbasa and beer. From there we continued back down the route stopping at some additional sites before heading back to the hotel to rest.
After a bit of a rest we made our way back out into the city. We’d spent the morning exploring the Golden Route and decided to enjoy the evening on the Red Route- a red dotted line near the riverfront with numbered stops delineating an important site. More than 60% of Szczecin was destroyed during allied air raids in the Second World War, but we were still able to check out a number of old churches, government buildings, a stone gate dating back to the mid-1700’s and the Pomeranian Duke’s Castle. As we walked towards the castle we were able to hear music- upon heading into the one of the castle’s courtyards we saw a stage set up with a live band playing country tunes! The 5 person band was actually really great and we stayed for about half an hour. Though it didn’t seem like any of the other audience members knew the words to the Dixie Chicks and Shania Twain tunes being performed everyone was really into the show. One man even lifted up his girlfriend, carried her up in front of the stage and they started dancing. Two very drunk older gentlemen soon joined in–a very festive atmosphere in deed.
After the concert and a few more stops along the Red Route we found a delicious and cheap Italian restaurant near the castle for dinner. We shared a plate of pasta and a pizza before making our way back through the city and to our hotel.
The next morning we woke up to dreary weather, but were determined to see some more of the city before our 6:00pm ride back to Berlin. We hadn’t yet walked along the river and we made our way down to the boardwalk. We spent the morning taking a few more sights from the Red Route we’d missed the day before. The river in Szczecin leads out to the Baltic Sea and we walked along a very pretty tree lined road with a great view of it. We were also able to see a bit of the Maritime Museum and another huge city park.
The rain started to pick up a bit in the afternoon so we decided to spend our last few hours in the city with some perogies and beer. We found a spot that over looked the river called Colorado. The interior was slightly politically incorrect, but they had some tasty food and pitchers of beer for 18 złoty (about 4.5 Euros). We were happy to have found a spot out of the rain and enjoyed a few hours in “Colorado” before heading back to Berlin.
We had a great time exploring Szczecin. The city was very walkable and easy to navigate. It’s changed hands a number of time over the years- being ruled by the Swedish, the Soviets and the Germans. The city though is home to more than 400,000 people now and from our view it looks they’re working hard to improve and modernize. Overall the people we met were friendly and helpful. Also something interesting was the immediately noticeable national pride. Polish flags were absolutely everywhere! And it was easy to find shops with Polish gear and memorabilia. Since arriving in Europe we’ve both been questioned about national pride and our thoughts on patriotism- something that’s always an interesting topic in Germany given their past. It was interesting to see such a bold display of it in Szczecin and I’m sure will provide exciting fodder for conversation in the future.
We’re headed back to the US for a good chunk of time this summer but are hoping to get at least one more trip in before we fly back. We’ll keep you posted!
♥- Dave & Adrian